For a half a century, Martinez Elementary School pupils got the building blocks of their educations in the same school building on Flowing Wells Road.
Now, the foundation of a new school is being laid on the same site.
Principal Wade White said his staff and pupils are settled into the former Belair Elementary School building, their temporary home during construction of the new $16.5 million school. They opened in the new Belair school location – and with about half of that school’s population – in August.
Demolition began on the 50-year-old Martinez Elementary School in July, according to school system Facilities and Maintenance Director Tim Beatty.
White said he takes photos of the progress at the site to share at faculty meetings.
“That is a huge morale booster to see that school going up,” White said, adding that the new building will easily house the current 625 pupils that includes those who came from the splitting of the Belair population.
The new school will be the same two-story design as the new Evans Elementary School, but slightly smaller to fit onto the site, Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Robert Jarrell said.
The 106,132-square-foot school will feature 43 classrooms, a wide staircase, wider hallways, larger classrooms, gymnasium and cafeteria and state-of-the-art security features like Evans Elementary. It also will contain all the infrastructure to support modern technology. In addition, all of the classes to include art, music and physical education will be under a single roof.
“We’re looking forward to the space,” White said. “The new building is going to be a bigger building and have all the latest technology. That’s what we’re really looking forward to.”
The new school is twice as large than the old one that was 50,996 square feet with 32 classrooms, according to Beatty.
Though moving an entire school wasn’t easy, White said he and his staff are happy to do it again when their new school is complete.
“We’re here and we’re settled in and we’re doing great,” White said. “We are looking forward to getting our new building.”
The school was originally projected to be complete in time for the opening of school in August. But rains and other delays have pushed the opening date to a projected January of next year.
Jarrell said if all goes well, he’s anticipating a mid-year opening.
The school system had a study performed several years ago that focused on whether to upgrade existing older school buildings or replace them with new ones.
“To bring those older schools up to the level we need with technology and infrastructure, it made more sense to build a new building,” Jarrell said.
Upgrading schools would cost several million dollars each and wasn’t cost-effective.
“It’s just a good move for the new buildings to go up,” Jarrell said.
The next school on the list to be replaced is North Harlem Elementary followed by others in Harlem, Jarrell said. Building new schools instead of fixing older ones actually saves money in maintenance, which older buildings need much more of.
Splitting the student population of the former Belair Elementary between the two new schools is also a cost-saving measure.
“It’s really a great money-saving opportunity for the county because it saves us the operating costs of a school,’ White said. “These kids in this community really deserve this.”